The web site, Caledonia Hilltreks details my ascents of the Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and New Donalds all of which are above 2000 feet. This blog will contain an account of my ascents of the hills below this height as and when they are climbed.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Coyles of Muick, Deeside. - Section 7

The Coyles of Muick

The Coyles of Muick, Deeside.
Height – 601 metres. Map – OS Landranger 44.
Climbed – 21 February 2010. Time taken – 5 hours.
Distance – 11 kilometres. Height climbed – 590 metres.
Trip Report Details:

The fine winter weather continued so I was out on the hills again enjoying these great conditions. The temperature on leaving Aberdeen was -6C but by the time I drove to the B976 South Deeside Road, west of Ballater, the temperature had dropped to -13C. I managed to get my car, which has 4 wheel drive, into a snow filled parking area directly opposite the vehicle track that led to Loch Ullachie. (Grid Ref NO3408395089)

Once geared up I crossed the road and entered the forest by a wicket gate and descended slightly to near the west side of Loch Ullachie which was frozen over. The track then climbed through the forest and I followed it and several bootprints which appeared to be from the previous day. After half an hour I exited the forest into a winter wonderland. There was lots of powder snow, the sun was out and I had my first view of the heavily snow clad Lochnagar.

Fortunately the folks that had walked through the forest the day before had continued towards my destination, The Coyles of Muick. There was a trail to follow in the powder snow that covered the heather. Deer had been scraping away at the snow to access this heather and I spotted some of them as I followed the trail south. Despite the low temperature it was quite pleasant in the sun and I stopped for a coffee taking in the views across the Balmoral Estate.

After my break I continued south above the top edge of the forest which was obviously used by deer for shelter. I then climbed to the summit of Meall Dubh where I had more great views of the surrounding snow covered mountains including Mount Keen, Lochnagar and my target hill, The Cyles of Muick.

I descended south-east and rejoined the trail to The Coyles of Muick and climbed its north face which had some neeve snow which made it a bit slippery. I arrived at the summit and stood on top of the snow covered cairn taking in the marvellous views of the hills already mentioned but now included Loch Muick and beyond to the Angus Hills.

The cairn shown on the map is supposedly the highest point on the Coyles of Muick but looking at my maps this cairn is on the 590 contour line. To the south-west there is a ring contour at 600 metres and the height of this Marilyn is given as 601 metres. I therefore think the south-west top is the highest point so I walked across to this top.

I was planning to make a circular route and descend through the forest to Birkhall so I headed into the forest where I found a vehicle track which unfortunately came to an end. I therefore climbed onto Craig of Loinmuie where I had lunch in the sun looking for a suitable route. While there I saw a couple of walkers on Meall Dubh.

After lunch I headed back into the forest in the direction of a track. However I was thwarted by cut and fallen timber and deep snow filled tracks caused by forest machinery. I therefore abandoned this plan and worked my way to the top of the forest and followed the trail used that morning to return to my car where it was now a warm -3C.

Photos taken on walk.

Beinn Mheadhoin, Inverness-shire. - Section 9B

Beinn Mheadhoin

Beinn Mheadhoin, Inverness-shire.
Height – 556 metres. Map- OS Landranger 26.
Climbed 14 February 2010. Time taken 2.75 hours.
Distance 10.5 kilometres. Height climbed – 370 metres.
Trip Report Details:

The start of this walk was the B851 Fearn to Fort Augustus Road at the junction with the unclassified road signposted Ruthven and Abersky where there is a red telephone box. (Grid Ref NH6070224504) There is limited parking beside the kiosk and from previous experience there isn’t many spots nearby to leave a vehicle.

I set off west along the B851 and soon came to the entrance to Dunmaglass Estate. I have used this route on a couple of occasions to access the remote Corbett Carn na Saobhaidhe in the Monadhliath range of mountains. I walked along this estate road and near the start came to a couple of impressive entrance pillars with bird statutes on top. Further on, beside the cottages at Achnaloddan, a sign indicated that the area was twinned with Warninglid in England. On checking the internet there isn’t a lot of information about Warninglid so I presume that is where the estate owner originates from.

Beyond the houses at Achnaloddan the route was sinposted and passed through a couple of fields containing sheep with lots of game birds flying around. At the second bridge I crossed the Allt Uisg an t-Sidhein where an animal trap was positioned as was the case on the first bridge. I’m not a fan of these devices.

A deer fence was reached with a gate and stile and once through the gate I continued up the track as the gradient increased. At a junction of tracks I took a left. The right hand track was the route to Carn na Saobhaidhe. There was some hard packed snow as I headed up Glas nan Gamhna and on approaching a slight dip in the track I left it and climbed the heather clad hillside but the walking was relatively easy as there were some animal tracks to follow.

I soon reached the summit cairn with views to the east and south of snow clad hills but with their tops in cloud. I had views of Lochs Ruthven and Conagleann and briefly saw the Loch Ness Grahams, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh and Glas-bheinn Mhor and the Glen Affric mountains.

The return was down the north ridge and over a small knoll. Later I went through a field surrounded by deer fencing before descending through some beech trees where the bark had been eaten by hungry animals. I went over a fence topped with barbed wire and tore my overtrousers which was annoying as I don’t know why barbed wire is used. I then crossed a small stream before passing through another gate and over a footbridge before reaching the track beside Achnaloddan and the walk back to the car.

Photos taken on walk.

Meall an Fheadain, Coigach. - Section 16F


Meall an Fheadain, Coigach.
Height – 203 metres. Map – OS Landranger 15.
Climbed – 13 February 2010. Time taken – 1.5 hours.
Distance – 4.5 kilometres. Height climbed – 170 metres.
Trip Report Details:

This was my final day in the North-West Highlands so I was looking for a short day walk, before heading to Inverness, and this Sub 2000 hill and Marilyn fitted the bill.

I drove south on the single track Lochinver to the Aird of Coigach road which is rather interesting with its narrowness, twists and turns. Once on the Achiltibuie Road I headed to the south-east of the hamlet of Altandhu and parked at the side of the access road which leads to the radio mast beside Meall an Fheadain.

There was no sign or barrier preventing access to the mast road but I set off on foot up this semi-tarred road. I made good progress and was passed by a crofter who had been feeding his sheep by scattering the food on the road.

Once through the flock of sheep it didn’t take long to reach the radio mast where a path was followed round its east side and onto the summit. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry was heading out of Loch Broom destined for Stornoway in the Western Isles. From the summit trig point I had views of numerous lochs, the Summer Isles, Badentarbat Bay and Achiltibuie.

There had been light rain off and on during my ascent but it wasn’t heavy enough to stop me having a coffee break while taking in these views. The return was by the upward route.

Photos taken on walk.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Beinn Reidh, Assynt. - Section 16F

Beinn Reidh

Beinn Reidh, Assynt.
Height – 567 metres. Map – OS Landranger 15.
Climbed – 12 February 2010. Time taken – 6.5 hours.
Distance – 18.5 kilometres. Height climbed – 880 metres.
Trip Report Details:

My walking partner had decided to head home so at short notice a plan was devised to climb this Sub 2000 foot hill located on the south side of Loch Assynt. I had previously studied the map but couldn’t see a suitable crossing point for the River Loanan to enable me to make an easterly approach from the Inchnadamph area. However I had noted that near Little Assynt, at the west end of Loch Assynt, there was a bridge crossing the River Inver and paths for part of the route towards Beinn Reidh.

I drove west along the A837 Lochinver to Skiag Bridge Road but missed the path beside Little Assynt and stopped in a small lay-by at NC1634225162 where I saw what appeared to be a bridge. On closer inspection I noted that it was sluice gates at the outflow of Loch Assynt and could be walked across. I therefore geared up and set off over a slight rise and onto the sluice gates, which were a bit slippery after some morning frost. However once on the other side there was no path and just some very rough terrain. While studying the map I heard deer barking several times and later saw a couple of hinds running off.

This next section was hard going due to the underfoot conditions which also involved clambering over some small knolls but eventually I reached the path near a gate in the deer fence at NC1635224598. I wouldn’t recommend this route as there doesn’t appear to be any benefit compared with starting from Litle Assynt where there is a path to follow.

I followed the path east up a gentle gradient and soon reached another deer gate at NC1700524780 where again there was a wicket gate for walkers. The ascent continued to the Bealach Aird na Seilege before descending to beside what appeared to be the same deer fence. The path was now quite wet and in places icy and looked little used.

It was a beautiful sunny day with some cloud on the mountain tops so I stopped for a break looking east onto Loch Assynt. After this break I continued on my descent which went through an area of gorse where deer obviously sheltered. Shortly after this I spotted two stags as they ran off from the gorse bushes on the opposite side of the deer fence. The next section of the path I lost as it was difficult to tell the difference between the deer paths and the stalker’s path as there was a lot of deep heather and bog around. Eventually I arrived back at the shore of Loch Assynt having lost all the height I had gained earlier

At NC1932524623 according to the map there was a junction of paths but this wasn’t obvious. To continue east would take me to the ruins at Tubeg but I wanted to head south so I clambered through some deep heather and after gaining a bit of height the path became obvious. The weather was terrific for the time of year and I was far too warm wearing my winter gear so I had to make a few changes. Thereafter good progress was made along this path, which was a bit wet, but ended just before Leathad Buidhe marked by a cairn at NC1910122973.

Navigation would be quite testing from this point as there was a vast area of pathless terrain to cross including peat bogs, peat hags and patches of wet snow hiding some of these features. However with the fine sunny weather navigation wasn’t a problem although I did a lot of meandering to avoid the above mentioned obstacles. I eventually arrived at the foot of the north ridge and watched several deer run off and later heard the distant sound of a shot so someone was out stalking the hinds.

Initially the ascent of the north face of Beinn Reidh was quite steep over some long heather followed by frozen grasses and snow which I tried to avoid. The gradient later eased considerably and it was a pleasant walk to the summit cairn where I had some lunch. The tops of the surrounding mountains, Quinag, Glas Bheinn, Conival, Ben More Assynt, Breabag, Canisp and Suilven were obscured by cloud but it was a peaceful and pleasant location to take a break.

The return was by the long ascent route in fine winter sun.

Photos taken on walk.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Auchtertyre Hill, Lochalsh. - Section 12A

Loch Alsh

Auchtertyre Hill, Lochalsh.
Height – 452 metres. Map – OS Landranger 33.
Climbed – 5 February 2010. Time taken – 3.25 hours.
Distance – 9.5 kilometres. Height climbed – 490 metres.
Trip Report Details:

The start for the ascent of this hill was the small village of Balmacara Square, which is reached from the A87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Shiel Bridge Road just west of Balmacara. There is ample car parking in the village.

I set off through the village and along the road to Plockton for around 350 metres to, on my right, a signposted route for Achnahinich 1.5 miles. I passed through a gate and followed this signposted track to just beyond a footbridge over a small stream, where the route to Achnahinich headed north. I remained on the track and passed through another gate with a notice telling me I was entering the Coille Mhor Habitat Management Area.

I had views of Loch Alsh and back to Balmacara Square as I continued through this managed area and into the forest. On reaching a ‘T’ junction I took a right and climbed to the highest point on the track where at grid ref. NG8270629283 I found a gap in the trees. The ground here was covered in snow but I soon emerged from the forest near Loch a’Bhealaich at grid ref. NG8297829304. I then had two options to get round the cliffs of Auchtertyre Hill’s north face and decided to head slightly to the right to beside a deer fence. This route was rather steep and slippery in places with some wet snow so I wouldn’t recommend it. The gradient later eased and I made my final approach to the summit trig point on Auchtertyre Hill. From the top I had views of Lochs Duich, Alsh and Carron, Kyle Rhea, Beinn Sgritheall, Beinn a’Callich and Ben Aslak.

After a short break, where it was rather cold in the wind, I headed to the North-East Top and disturbed a grouse. I then commenced my descent still heading north-east and saw two foxes walking up a nearby ridge. I regained a bit of height to see if I could spot them again but to no avail. I thereafter continued my descent which took me to the east end of Loch a’Bhealaich where a couple of deer ran off. I then headed for the gap in the forest and returned to Balmacara Square by my ascent route.

Photos taken on walk.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Dun Caan, Island of Raasay - Section 17A

Dun Caan

Dun Caan, Island of Raasay.
Height – 443 metres. Map – OS Landranger 24.
Climbed – 4 February 2010. Time taken – 2.75 hours.
Distance – 6 kilometres. Height climbed – 350 metres.
Trip Report Details:

A number of years ago I read the book Calum's Road which tells the story of Calum MacLeod who toiled for over a ten years to build a road to his croft on the Island of Raasay after failing to win public funds for the construction of the road. His exploits were featured in the press, on radio and television and in the above mentioned book. Since reading the book I had been interested going to Raasay to see this road.

We set off for Sconser on the Island of Skye to catch the 0925 ferry to Raasay and arrived early which was fortunate as two lorries were booked on this small vehicle ferry. The crossing took fifteen minutes and once disembarked we drove north on a very quiet single track road to south of Brae. (NG 5612040554) Here there was a small parking area and a sign for Dun Caan.

The path was icy in places but the overnight snow had turned to rain so it was also wet in sections. However an easy gradient eventually led to Bealach Ruadh where there was a small frozen lochan. From here we descended fairly steeply on a snow covered path to Loch na Meilich before the path zig zagged to the summit trig point of Dun Caan. Fortunately the earlier cloud had cleared the top although visibility across to Applecross was rather hazy. However we did have some views of the Island of Raasay itself. After taking several photos we returned to the car by the outward route.

We then drove north to the ruined Brochel Castle which was the starting point for Calum’s Road. Driving along this section of road was amazing with its numerous twists and turns and steep gradients. Calum MacLeod didn’t have the equipment to blast away the rock, instead he used a pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. It made me think of the hardships he endured to construct this road which is now maintained by the Local Authority and brings tourists to the Island.

On the drive north we saw a couple of eagles and on the return journey to catch the 1540 ferry back to Skye we saw a crow chasing off a couple of eagles.

Photos taken on walk.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Beinn na Seamraig, Isle of Skye - Section 17C

Sound of Sleat

Beinn na Seamraig, Isle of Skye.
Height – 561 metres. Map - OS Landranger 33.
Climbed - 3 February 2010. Time taken - 6.25 hours.
Distance - 13.5 kilometres. Height climbed - 650 metres.
Trip Report Details:

We headed over to the Island of Skye and the Kylerhea road, which was reached from the A87 west of Kyleakin. The road, which is single track, was covered in snow and ice. The route headed up through Glen Arroch towards the Bealach Udal but we stopped at the bridge where a vehicle track crossed the Allt Mor (Grid Ref. NG7293021789). There wasn’t a lot in the way of parking here so we used the bellmouth as we didn't expect anyone to be accessing the snow covered track that day.

The first part of the walk involved continuing up the Kylerhea road to the Bealach Udal, a distance of over two kilometres. At this bealach we walked to the radio mast following some bootprints, probably from the previous day. Once beyond the end of this short section of mast road we tracked these prints to the east of Beinn Bheag where they headed directly towards Ben Aslak. We continued to it's col with Beinn Bheag, from where we commenced the ascent of Ben Aslak passing a small snow covered lochan. The lying snow was now more compact and in places icy as we ascended a gully and made our way to the eastern summit of this Graham, where we had views of Glenelg, Lochs Alsh and Duich, and the Sound of Sleat.

We then headed over to Ben Aslak's South-West Top which is reportedly the highest point but that is difficult to tell from looking at them. From here we continued in the same direction and it was initially an easy descent through the snow until we reached some rocks which we had to work round to reach the Bealach na Cruinn-leum. The snow and ground was rather soft here so progress was slow in case we went into the bog.

Once beyond the bealach we stopped for lunch before climbing onto the north ridge of Beinn Dubh a’Bhealaich, bypassing it's summit, and headed out to Beinn na Seamraig. At its summit cairn we had good views of Loch Hourn, Isle Ornsay, Sound of Sleat, the Skye Cuillin and the Islands of Rum and Egg as well as spotting some snow buntings. After taking in these superb views we left this Sub 2000 hill and retraced our steps back to Beinn Dubh a’Bhealaich’s north ridge. This ridge was followed until lower down when some rocky outcrops appeared so we descended north-east to join the vehicle track below Bealach na Cruinn-leum. Progress was now easy on the snow covered track and this took us to the bridge over the Allt Mor and the end of another good hill day.

Photos taken on walk.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Cnoc Mor, Easter Ross - Section 15B

Cnoc Mor

Cnoc Mor, Easter Ross.
Height - 269 metres. Map - OS Landranger 26.
Climbed – 31 January 2010. Time taken - 2.5 hours.
Distance – 7.5 kilometres. Height climbed – 370 metres.
Trip Report Details:

I was staying in Inverness and later that day was heading west so a short morning walk was the plan and Cnoc Mor suited the bill. I decided to start from Blackmuir Wood, Strathpeffer, where there were forest walks.

There was some snow on the road between the villages of Contin and Strathpeffer and as I drove into Strathpeffer I saw the signs for the woods. Unfortunately there were also signs indicating that the walks and car park were closed as trees were being forested. However as it was Sunday I didn’t think anyone would be working so I found somewhere to park and headed up the forest track. I hadn’t gone far when I heard the noise of a vehicle and saw that it was collecting cut timber. I tried a couple of side paths but they came to an end amongst areas of cut timber so after half an hour I gave up and returned to my car.

I drove back towards Contin and at a junction signposted to Jamestown took a left and headed for Beallachnagore Farm to just beyond the end of the public road where I found a parking space. I then walked across a field to the edge of Blackmuir Woods and followed the boundary fence up the side of the trees crossing a couple more fences. Eventually I noticed that there was a path within the woods and clambered over the fence and followed this path which soon came to a stile and crossed back into the field.

The path led to a sign indicating the route through a newer plantation but the path was overgrown and a bit wet and snow covered. Eventually it led to another path which was also signposted. Here I took a left and the path led to the summit trig point which was partially surrounded by trees.

This had only taken me thirty minutes so I descended north-east, steeply in a couple of locations, and headed out to Knock Farril, over its south-west top. From this top there were views of Ben Wyvis, Little Wyvis, the Cromarty Firth and Castle Leod.

After a short break at the summit I retraced my route back to the car.

Photos taken on walk.